One of this summer's most popular holiday activities in Bristol is Gromit Unleashed, the Gromit Trail.
Wallace and Gromit were created by Nic Park
for his graduation film A Grand Day Out
from The National Film and Television School. He completed the film after joining Aardman Animations
- they took him on before he finished the piece, allowing him to work on it part-time while still being funded by the school. Ever since then, Wallace and Gromit have continued their adventures, and Aardman have continued to document them. Wallace is a Yorkshireman (he was going to be a Lancastrian but the actor who voiced him could only do Yorkshire) who loves Wensleydale cheese
, Gromit is his dog. Wallace is a dreamer, a creator of fabulous inventions
, Gromit (though mute) his down-to-earth and capable
The Gromit Trail is a series of 80 model Gromits
placed in and around Bristol, and the activity is to try and see them all. There's a map, toys, model Gromits and an auction at the end, in aid of Bristol Children's Hospital
The smaller Gromits are the school ones. I swear when I visited the website yesterday there was a photo of every single Gromit sited but that's no longer the case, who knows why - maybe people didn't like being able to see the ones they hadn't found yet. I reckon in a day you could do 20-25 before completely tiring yourself out. Less if you treat it as the kids' activity it's being marketed as - the kids will flag - but on the Gromit hunt you keep meeting adults who are completely charmed, doing it sans offspring.
Part of the charm of these figures: the punning and the little jokey details become more evident when you get up close to them.
Plus, as a way of getting to know the city better
, it's cracking. Well done that canny tourist board!
Aardman have a nice relationship to the city. By all accounts it's a nice place to work. The art college, part of the University of the West of England, used to run diploma courses in 'claymation', stop-motion animation with clay models, although I'm not sure of the situation now: that specificity appears to no longer be the case. Every Christmas the BBC (Bristol branch) is bound to show one or other of their feature films, The Curse of the Were Rabbit, Chicken Run, or The Wrong Trousers
. (And The Wrong Trousers are particularly memorable for inspiring the-wrong-trousers-based fundraising
On preview, honestly, I don't work for any of these people. Someone took me on the Gromit Trail as a treat - I surprised myself by enjoying it a lot. There have been similar projects in Bristol before - there were gorilla sculptures
, and I think lion sculptures
, but the Gromits, as they are local and connected to a respected local firm, seem more.....local, I guess. More typical, more homey.